Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 27, 2007

Kiss me!

Hershey's Kisses turned 100 years old earlier this month. To celebrate, the Hershey Company in Hershey, Penn. unveiled a giant version weighing 30,540 pounds.

Now that's a TON - well 15 tons - of chocolate! Although I do like chocolate, I prefer the traditional bite-size ones myself. Kisses have been a part of my family's history for as long as I can remember, and we have maintained certain traditions related to the candies.

Every year since our daughters were little, I've put Hershey's Kisses in their Christmas stockings and Easter baskets and have made sure to give them some for Valentine's Day as well.

When German exchange student Nadja was with us for a year, we included her in the tradition. You should have seen her eyes that Christmas when she opened the nine-inch tall Kiss with an equal diameter base.

Niece Gabriela, on a trip to a Hershey's store in New York, purchased a similar-sized Kiss for her sister Larisa. Larisa, however, could hardly bear to cut the big hunk of candy. When she finally did, it took her nearly nine months to finish it!

For Christmas, husband Art's cousin Claudia makes dozens of beautiful decorated cookies. Her Peanut Blossoms - which have Kisses adorning the tops - are the ones youngest daughter Katie favors.

I love the simplicity of Hershey's Kisses advertisements and even use them as examples in the Ad Sales class I teach at K-State. Originally wrapped in silver foil, the Kisses now also come in red and green for Christmas; pastel blue, pink and green for Easter; and red and silver for Valentine's Day. And the fairly-new dark chocolate Kisses - oldest daughter Mariya's favorite - come wrapped in purple foil.

One of my favorite Hershey's magazine ads includes a photo of three Kisses in a row - one is red, one is silver and the last one is green. The only words on the page are: "Free gift wrap. Happy Holidays from Hershey's Kisses." Another favorite has a silver Kiss and a red one with their paper plumes intertwined in the shape of a heart. The words, again, are simple: "Be mine. Happy Valentine's Day from Hershey's."

But not all of Hershey's marketing efforts are so understated. Driving to Wisconsin a few years ago, Art saw this really strange vehicle coming toward him in the westbound lane. When it was close enough, he could see it was a giant "Kissmobile," a vehicle shaped like a huge version of the popular sweet.

During our 1991 trip to Pennsylvania, we included a stop in Hershey, where we toured the Hershey Chocolate Factory. We rode along in little "cars" to learn about the chocolate's journey from the jungles to the factory, where the cocoa beans are roasted, ground and turned into chocolate.

I thought the tour was very enlightening as well as fun. I also thought that oldest daughter Mariya, then almost 5, and Gabriela, then 2 �, would find it fascinating too since they both liked chocolate candies.

Little did I know! Mariya remembers little about the whole trip, but she recalled that tour . . . and the memory wasn't sweet. It seems she was scared to death because she thought we were going to be roasted and then covered with chocolate!

When I recently checked the Hershey's Web site, I discovered the following tidbits:

- Hershey's Kisses have been produced continuously since 1907, except for the period between 1942 and 1949 when foil was rationed during World War II. But even though the company didn't produce Kisses during the war, it provided more than a billion Ration D bars for soldiers.

- Special machines drop a precise amount of chocolate onto moving steel belts and quickly cool it to form the Kiss shape. Although it's not known exactly how the Kiss got its name, it's a popular theory that it was from the smooching sound made by the machines.

- Hershey's makes more than 80 million Kisses every day at its chocolate factories in Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.

- Originally made with just milk chocolate, the Kiss now comes in dark chocolate and also comes with different fillings such as almonds, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate truffle and cherry cordial creme.

Although I've tried some of the different varieties, my favorite is still the original. Sister Gaila feels the same. "Why do they fill them with all those flavors?" she asked. "They shouldn't mess with a good thing."

Just thinking about the Kiss makes me want to sample a few!

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